26 Apr

Telling Stories with Data

(an edited version of this article originally appeared in the HyperWM newpaper, Nov 2012)

 

Once upon a time …

Alice I by Katratzi, Flickr

When was the last time you sat down and read a fairy story?

It may be a few years, but I’m sure you could tell a few of those childhood stories from memory. Whether it’s the interesting characters, the exciting storylines, the emotion you felt or the moral lessons you learned; the stories stick.

When was the last time you sat down and read a spreadsheet?

I’m guessing, never?

Unlike a fairy story, a spreadsheet has no characters, no thrilling plot, no emotion and no lesson to be learned.

You probably skip straight to the end, check out the total and close the book – you certainly don’t print out all those pages, and take them home for a cosy night by the fire.

 

However, there IS a story in that spreadsheet – it’s the story of a situation, a rise or a fall, a pattern or a trend. It may be a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride, it may be a fascinating insight into the current landscape. Unfortunately, it’s hidden behind all those rows and columns of numbers.

This is where visualisation comes in – taking those statistics and turning them into something the human eye can fathom – colour and shape, placement and size. By presenting these numbers in a visual way you create something that anyone can understand, irrespective of their literacy, numeracy, language, background or prior knowledge of the subject.

Through bar charts, pie charts, line graphs and full-on infographics, the story is revealed, we can see the characters (the different elements) on their journey – we can see the changes, the excitement and the disappointments.

That story will provoke a reaction – anger, satisfaction, joy or disgust – all emotions that will prompt our next move. Do we stay on the same route, or does something need to change?

Without clear and simple representations of the information, there will be many people who simply don’t get it.

And in the current climate of transparency and accountability – data is only open, if everyone can access it.

Once we reach this point, we can all begin to make clear, informed decisions about our future and the future of others and, hopefully …  live happily ever after.

23 Apr

Moseley Exchange – a new way (for me) to work

moseleyexchange

 

Since I started working for myself, I’ve been on a hunt for that *perfect* place to work.

I tried the various coffee shops around Birmingham (read my findings here) but working in a coffee shop 5 days a week is not financially viable. (In order to stay in a coffee shop guilt-free all day you’d need to buy at least 3 drinks and some food  – totting up a daily spend of around £10.) Plus all that coffee isn’t good for you.

I experimented with a bunch of other locations and blogged about them here

I hunted for a small office/office share in the Jewellery Quarter, but the places were either too expensive  or lacked vital services, like running water or wifi.

So I decided to return to a previous haunt of mine, Moseley Exchange, a co-working space in this leafy-suburb of Birmingham.

I’ve blogged about this place before, where I raised a couple of queries about the etiquette of a shared space.

So far so good.

  • quiet – oh so quiet. I am constantly plugged into Spotify so don’t hear the general office noise, but  conversations/phone calls are kept short and meetings held in the adjoining lounge. 
  • self-conscious productivity – at home I may stick on a TV show whilst I work – but I just wouldn’t do this at Moseley Exchange
  • Journey to work – I’ve always missed the walk to work – it sets the start and the end of the day
  • Set working hours. I’m glad Moseley Exchange isn’t open longer or I’d fall into the same trap as at home – working slowly and for longer periods of time. With an opening time of 9am and closing at anywhere between 6pm and 8pm, it means I can have a solid work session. Plus it’s a really big deal if I have to put my laptop on when I get home
  • Free tea and coffee. requires no explanation

The plan is that when I buy a 2-bed place, I won’t need Moseley Exchange as I’ll convert the second bedroom into an office – but we’ll see how I get on!

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020